Penguins take step in right direction
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Coach Eddie Olczyk and the Penguins players have been saying from the start of training camp that they won’t finish the season in last place. That they’ll surprise a lot of people this year, and that the only goal is to make the playoffs.
But their actions didn’t catch up to their words in the first three preseason games, and they went into Tuesday’s contest against the Boston Bruins at the Halifax Metro Centre as the only 0-3 team in the NHL.
The fact that it is only the preseason didn’t matter much to Olczyk on Tuesday morning.
“I’m very disappointed that we have not won a game yet,” Olczyk said. “We need guys to step up and get that opportunity. We’re going to have some decisions to make in the next four to five days of where we’re going.”
Several players answered the call in a 3-2 win last night in which the Penguins equaled their offensive output from the first three games combined. Rookie Matt Murley scored in the opening minutes and was later joined by defenseman Patrick Boileau and forward Rico Fata on the scoresheet.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, playing in the same building that housed the World Junior Championship in which he starred last winter, stopped 27 of 29 shots in his second preseason game for his first win.
The Penguins’ lineup bore more resemblance to one they could field during the regular season than the previous three games. Veteran Martin Straka played in his first preseason game and was joined by forwards Aleksey Morozov, Rico Fata, Eric Meloche, Ramzi Abid, Brian Holzinger and Matt Bradley, among others. On defense, Drake Berehowsky was supposed to join Dick Tarnstrom on the blue line before Tarnstrom became sick at the airport and was sent home.
“We want to start fielding what we feel is at least a close proximity of what we’re going to look like opening night,” Olczyk said.
And unlike in their last game against the stripped-down Washington Capitals, the Penguins faced a number of Boston Bruins regulars, including Brian Rolston, Sergei Samsonov, Joe Thornton, Glen Murray. Steve Shields was the goaltender for two periods and was replaced by Andrew Raycroft in the third. Former Penguins defenseman Ian Moran watched from the press box.
Murley scored the first goal just two and a half minutes into the game by doing exactly what Olczyk directed before the game — going to the net. He pushed a rebound under Shields from the right corner for his first point of the preseason in his second game.
The Bruins tied the score with five minutes left in the first period after Sergei Samsonov knocked in a rebound from a shot that hit the post behind Fleury. Less than a minute later, the Penguins reclaimed the lead on a one-timer by Patrick Boileau, filling in for Tarnstrom, after a pass by Morozov from behind the net.
Fata gave the Penguins a cushion in the last five minutes of the second period when he took advantage of an off-balance Jeff Jillson to speed down the right wing and send a wrist shot past Shields on the far side.
All four goals were at even-strength.
Early in the third period, Bruins forwards Joe Thornton drew both Berehowsky and rookie Paul Bissonnette to him as he charged down the middle with the puck. That left Nova Scotia native Glen Murray open in the left circle to take a pass and beat Fleury stick side at 2:58.